Correcting the Settlement History of Bakalanga

Updated: September 27, 2013

by Abel A. Mabuse Sunday Standard

Over the last two months, I have read with shock and sometimes disdain at some apparent confusion surrounding the settlement history of Bukalanga. Since December 2012, a number of disingenuous newspaper articles have been published on these two related topics. Misleading information covered in these issues has compelled me to offer some direction on the settlement history of Bukalanga. Among the disingenuous articles I read, there are three which I find interesting.

One article covers a story of one certain Facebook elected Ndebele Induna (chief) who claims to have the right to political leadership of all Bakalanga found in the North East District (NED).  The misled leader is a youthful man better described in newspapers as a tertiary dropout who goes by the name Nhlanhla Simon. The claims by Simon were reported in an article in which Dr Manatsha was erroneously quoted by one Mmegi journalist Lawrence Seretse. Information on the arrival of Baperi of Nswazwi and Tjilagwane in Bukalanga was clearly misinterpreted in the article. Dr Manatsha subsequently offered a candid chronicle of events leading to the NED land situation and chieftainship quandary in a paper published in Volume 30, no 24 of Mmegi dated 15 February 2013. The paper focused mainly on the NED and clarified some misrepresentation of historical events covered in the Seretse article.

The other two articles mainly cover the settlement history of Baperi of Tjilagwane in Bukalanga. Of interest is a recent article written by She (Kgosi) Alphonse Nsala of Tjilagwane ward in Tutume. His article titled ‘The real story of Baperi of Tjilagwane’ appeared in Mmegi newspaper volume 30 No 32 dated 01 March 2013. This is in fact a rebuttal of an earlier account of Baperi of Tutume published by one Barati Mathambo in Mmegi of 13 December 2012. In his account, She Nsala of Tjilagwane attempted but did not quite succeed in correcting some historical delusions carried in Mathambo’s article on the settlement history of the Baperi living in Bulilima (areas of Bukalanga around Sebina, Nshakazhogwe, Madandume, Tjilagwane and Nswazwi where Lilima dialect is spoken).

The point raised by the leader of Tjilagwane about the settlement of the Baperi at Old Shoshong and their subsequent movement to Old Palapye with Bangwato is inconsistent with the available body of literature of the origins of Baperi. Secondly, the statement that the Baperi were led by Tjilagwane and Shabalume into Bukalanga in 1902 is not correct. She Nsala should know that since the Baka Nswazwi Royal Dynasty spans at least 8 generations, his 1902 date cannot be correct. To buttress my point, the dynasty begins with Shabalume who becomes Nswazwi I and ends with John Madawo Nswazwi stylised Nswazwi VIII. This historical information is freely available at the tombstone of She John Madawo Nswazwi VIII at Nswazwi Royal Cemetery. If She John Madawo Nswazwi VIII was born in 1875 in Bukalanga, how is it possible that his first generation forefather, Shabalume or Nswazwi I, led Baperi from Old Palapye into Bukalanga in 1902?

Another important aspect that can be deduced from She Nsala and Barati Mathambo’s articles is the extensive misinterpretation of the settlement record of Bulilima region in Bukalanga. The two articles fail to acknowledge that when Baperi arrived in the areas around Tutume, they found the Bawumbe of Madandume in the areas around Duthu la Majambubi. The Bawumbe of Madandume, Nshakazhogwe, Motshwane ward in Sebina and BaSenete are Balilima. They venerate tjibelu as their totem and have the longest occupation record in Bukalanga than any other groups found in the area.

These people lived in areas around present day Tutume, Goshwe, Nkange up to Maitengwe as early as AD 1700 (Mabuse 2012). The residences of the chiefs of these Balilima are found on hilltop ruins such as Selolwane near Tjilagwane, Sulawali and Matombo Mashaba on the western side of Madandume. The largest of these prehistoric Balilima villages is found at Magapatona Ruin, some 5 kilometres north of Goshwe village. These Balilima people were found here by all Sotho-Tswana-turned Bakalanga groups of Baperi of Tjilagwane, Nswazwi and Masunga and the Bakaya of Tjizwina.

NOTE: The rest of Mabuse’s original article was a history of Bakalanga settlement, which has been posted in the history section of this site.

*Abel A. Mabuse is Head of Archaeological Research Laboratory at Botswana National Museum and writes in his personal capacity as an Archaeologist with Bukalanga roots.

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